Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Swap Shop – The Herefordshire Big Game, 8th March 2014

Or, "A Royal Mitre Exchange."



With 14 players spread over 3 tables, last Saturday saw the biggest VBCW Herefordshire Big Game yet!

Once again VBCW gamers from across the country converged on Burley Gate Village Hall to take part in our latest scheme. The story so far was this:-

The Battle of Foy saw the combined Royalist/BUF force trapped in the Foy salient, almost totally surrounded by the River Wye and cut off from the land route by the sabotaged Hereford-Ross railway, along which runs the Anglican League lines.

Soon the Royalists and BUF began to squabble as each faction blamed the other for their predicament. This was also fuelled by the rivalry between the Royalist Governor of Hereford and the newly arrived BUF kingpin the Baron of Foy.

Keen to capitalise on the infighting, The Anglican League approached the not unsympathetic Royalists with a proposition: release their spiritual leader the Bishop of Hereford (re)captured during the 2nd Battle of Ledbury; in return for safe passage out of the Foy enclave and an honourable withdrawal back to Hereford. To the BUF’s fury, the Royalists had agreed to this plan.

So the scene was set. Table 1 represented the route that the Royalists, transporting the Bishop, would have to take in order to reach table 2, representing a portion of the Anglican League siege lines where the exchange would take place. Table 3 represented the undulating countryside on the Anglican’s west flank.

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

Briefings were as follows:

Royalist Briefing

Sirs,

With the bulk of the King’s forces in Herefordshire trapped at Foy, William de Braose, Interim Governor of the Marches, has brokered a deal with the Anglican League.

The former Bishop of Hereford, currently a guest at His Majesty’s pleasure, will be handed over to the Anglicans in return for your safe passage out of the Foy entrapment.

You will be allowed to pass through the Anglican siege lines with full military honours once the Bishop is in their hands. The Anglicans can be relied upon to honour their side of the bargain (although privately you think them foolish to give up such a catch as your Royalist force in exchange for a doddery old Bishop!), but the same cannot be said for your ‘allies’ the BUF, who have shown themselves to be an utter shower.

The Governor himself is currently en-route to the handover point, which you are currently guarding in conjunction with the Anglican League. He expects you to ensure the column arrives with him and the Bishop in one piece. You must ensure that the Bishop is in Anglican hands - then they will allow you to exit the table through their lines in an honourable withdrawal back to Hereford.

Unfortunately scouts have reported large groups of armed agitators and brigands in the area, whilst the BUF trapped in Foy with you are being unusually cocksure at the moment…

The Royalists' route

BUF Briefing

Fascists,

Thanks to the pathetic efforts of your ‘allies’ the Governor of Hereford and his Royalists, a large portion of your forces are trapped at Foy – the estate of your leader and Mosley’s man, Sir Peter Mandie-Benjamin, 1st Baron Benjamin of Foy.

To make matters worse, your ‘allies’ are planning to desert you after doing a shady deal with the rebels (a deal which you have contemptuously dismissed out of hand) in which they get their Bishop back in return for you ‘allies’’ freedom.

Baron Foy demands action! You must show the world who is boss! Foy has arranged for the Bishop’s route to be ‘leaked’ to a nearby band of brigands, who will no doubt try to attack his column. This will buy you enough time to launch a lightning attack on the rebels and burst through their siege lines while they divert troops to rescue their leader. Your ‘allies’ had better not get in your way…

As a further diversion, Baron Foy has also ordered those BUF troops not under siege to attack the territory of that cur Sir Gilbert on the Anglican flank in the Golden Valley. Foy is hell bent on revenge, and demands at least one of Gilbert’s much vaunted flags as a trophy.

Anglican League Briefing

Chaps,

Under the leadership of Brigadier Gideon Langnecke, the Anglican League has trapped a sizeable Royalist/BUF force at Foy. However the cost of maintaining the siege is draining your already meagre supplies at an alarming rate.

Luckily you have been approached by the Royalists, who you know to be an honourable bunch, with a proposal: In return for the return of your spiritual leader the Bishop of Hereford, you will allow the forces of the King guaranteed safe passage through your siege lines and an honourable withdrawal back to Hereford.

The return of the Bishop will be a massive morale boost for your men, not to mention the greater Anglican cause, and if all passes off cordially will also open the possibility of a united local front with the Royalists against those rascals in the BUF.

The Royalist Governor is currently en-route to the handover point, which you are currently guarding in conjunction with his men. Brigadier Langnecke expects you to ensure that the Bishop arrives with him and that he is in Anglican hands. You will then allow the Royalists to exit the table through your lines.

Be on the lookout for those Fascist rogues though – they are bound to spoil the party at Foy and have also been spotted lurking around your flank near Sir Gilbert’s patch in the Golden Valley…

The handover point

Socialist Briefing

Comrades,

The fire of revolution is dwindling and it is up to you to rekindle the flame!

News has reached the West Country People’s Soviet that the lackeys of the so-called king have done a deal with your ‘allies’ the Anglicans. They intend to hand over the parasite Bishop of Hereford in return for safe passage out of the hole they’ve got themselves into. Moreover the bourgeois Fascist lickspittle the Governor of Hereford is said to be accompanying the Bishop.

Details of the route that the Bishop and his captors will take has been ‘liberated’ from a Fascist defector and is now in your hands. The People’s Soviet hereby orders you, their comrades in arms, to attack this column and capture both the Bishop and the Governor.

If you fail to capture these malcontents en-route, you also have a platoon of men attached to your Anglican ‘allies’ at the handover point. Intelligence suggests that the BUF are aiming to spoil the party here, so you are authorised to do a temporary deal with the devil if need be.

You must leave the battlefield with the enemies of the people in your possession, so that they can be tried before a people’s tribunal for crimes against the Workers’ State. Achieve this objective at all costs!

A Socialist On The Buses

Cue lots of plotting, counter-plotting and general skullduggery from each faction as CinCs were appointed and shady negotiations took place via email!

Last minute changes to the player roster saw me donning a red T-shirt and taking the role as one of the Socialist malcontents determined to stop the Royalists from fulfilling their mission and arresting the Bishop and his captor the Governor on table 1. This is what transpired:

My Socialists de-bus

Bringing the revolution to South Herefordshire was me (fielding the N.A.L.U. Joseph Arch People’s Column) and Matt (of Glenbrook Games) and his Huntley and Palmer branch of the Peoples Biscuit Makers collective.

The Royalist Horse with VIPs

Facing us were Tym and his Royalist Horse, alongside ‘Ciderfella’ and the Catholic militia of Cardinal Alfonso dos Navarre y Asturias – papal Nuncio to court of St James.

Morris Dancing Socialist Biscuit Makers!

Readying ourselves to pounce, my farm labourers and Matt’s biscuit makers set up defensive positions across the field, with 2-man bombing teams, complete with roadside bombs, hand grenades and crowbars, set up at two roadblocks that blocked the road than wound its way along the table. We also each had a sniper, set up in lofty positions and with range-finding poles cunningly hammered into the ground so as not to give away their positions by our tape measures.

Royalists ready to charge!

Then the Royalists arrived, mounted in readiness to charge along the table and ride down our godless socialists!

Catholic Cavalry

Then they spotted my big tank (a gift from the West Midlands’ Armoured Vehicle Manufacturers Collective). As our socialist infantry moved up to what we hoped would be relatively defensible positions along each flank (leaving the centre to the snipers and bombers), the Royalists dismounted and unlimbered their artillery.

Socialists advance with big tank

The biscuit makers de-bussed around the hills and buildings on our left while my troops lined the hedgerows to our right, accompanied by the tank. I knew that I wouldn’t last long in the face of the Royalist artillery, in addition to their mortars and HMGs, so I resolved to knock the Royalist Horse big gun facing me.

My tank opened fire, and the Royalist guns duly returned the compliment. My advance militia also fired, taking first blood by knocking out some Royalist artillery spotters and forcing their anti-tank rifle team to withdraw.

Socialist militia dig in

However this flank saw both sides’ infantry glaring sullenly across the fields at each other, out of rifle range and probably all the better for it, for the rest of the game. I took light casualties as the Royalists tried to dislodge the militia with mortar fire, but their resolve held (despite an event card which drenched the battlefield in a dispiriting drizzle and effected morale). My forward militia dug in for the duration to avoid being raked by the Royalists' HMGs.

My tank fires

My tank also held firm, despite being subjected to artillery, anti-tank rifle and mortar fire. This increasingly battered behemoth stood it’s ground, successfully rallying any failed morale tests (although it was touch and go occasionally). She also had to contend with Royalist smoke grenades - although no one had brought any smoke markers, so we improvised by using chocolate chip cookies!

Edgy tank crew takes the biscuit!

Matt's biscuit makers were soon engaged in a firefight with the Catholics, who gained the upper hand after forcing a section of drizzle-soaked socialists to break and flee the battlefield. However reinforcements were quickly brought up to hold the line. Further reinforcements entered the fray when a stray Royalist mortar round landed in the cornfield that separated my militia and Tym’s Royalist Horse.

On come the scarecrows!

A scarecrow stood sentinel over this field and, as both Tym and I are Herefordshire Big Game veterans, we both knew the consequences of messing with any ground so marked. The mortar shell was enough to trigger the ire of Twiggy Mommet rabble and (following a d6 to decide the table edge) a horde of the protesters arrived to assist Matt’s platoon.

The Catholic militia unleash hell

Soon the biscuit makers began to redress the balance against the Catholics, despite the annoyance of a hidden Royalist sniper. On my flank the big guns continued to trade shots, with my socialist mortar team, ably assisted by their spotters, moving up to add to the barrage. My tank, despite it’s advanced and exposed position, continued to function, as did the Royalist artillery which, notwithstanding several direct hits, was able to fight on thanks to a nearby medic keeping the gunners in action.

Pesky artillery

It was clear that we had stopped the Royalist column from reaching the rendezvous point on table 2, but we had yet to arrest their VIPs. In an effort to break the deadlock I moved up my close-combat troops. Urged on by their political officer they scrambled over our barricades, advancing up the road towards the enemy in the hope of getting in close enough to unleash their shotguns, SMGs and grenades. The Royalists were having none of it however, catching them in a deadly crossfire from which the survivors barely managed to extricate themselves from.

My shock troops advance

By now the Royalists were also aware that they would be unable to push further, despite the insistence of the Governor of Hereford, who was blissfully unaware of how close he was to being shot by the Catholics! 

What's left of them withdraw

The Royalists’ position was further compounded by the arrival of Tom’s South Wales Socialists from table 2, where he had harassed our Anglican League ‘allies’ and generally made a nuisance of himself before exiting at our request in order to add some extra punch to our next move.

Red reinforcements

My sniper, bored of keeping overwatch on a killing ground that the enemy had no intention of crossing, moved from his position in a building, but, thanks to an event card which turned all off-road ground into a quagmire, struggled to get to the firing line. But before we could get into gear and bring our now superior numbers into play, the Royalists had saddled up and limbered up and withdrew from the field.

The overall picture at the end

In retrospect I should have been more aggressive if I were to fulfil my objective. My tank did sterling work in holding up an entire royalist platoon, but I did not capitalise this. Perhaps the best approach would have been to simply burst through the hedges and roll over the artillery position as opposed to firing impotently at it; unsophisticated as this may have been. My infantry could have advanced in it's wake, concentrating it's fire on a section of the Royalist line.

Socialist rear

At the very least, once it became clear that the Royalists were not going to sweep towards us, I should have also moved up more elements, such as the sniper, to give them a harder time and support the advance of Matt's platoon. As it was I did my usual trick of moving up one section, unsupported, and saw them driven off by superior firepower. Hindsight is a wonderful thing though, and if every commander knew his business properly then it wouldn't be VBCW!

Matt's Socialists

On table 2 the Anglicans, after dealing with the roadside bombs and other sundry suspicious packages littered around their position by Tom’s sneaky reds, had to face both the Socialist menace and the Royalist/BUF forces they were trying to contain.

Anglican League siege lines

Once the reds disappeared, Capt. Teddy ‘Bear’ Jerningham and Colonel Mouton (on secondment from the French Foreign Legion) could concentrate on Stokkies Joubert ‘s Royalist South Africans and the dastardly Fascist Major Campbell. Would the truce between the Anglicans and the South Africans hold? Would the Saffas turn on their Blackshirt allies?

IEDs...

The Royalist South Africans initially held back as the BUF attempted to force the Anglican lines, only to be bloodily repulsed. As a fog descended over the battlefield and the factions plotted and counter-plotted while they awaited the transport column from table 1, the Anglicans offered the South Africans a way out via a lashed-up pontoon bridge over the River Wye.

BUF attempt to force a breakout

The Royalists jumped at this chance of freedom, but unbeknownst to the Anglicans, had also let the BUF in on the act. Abandoning their heavy weaponry, the BUF (including a teeth gnashing Baron Foy, forced to join the exodus in disguise) rushed along the pontoon amidst their Royalist allies, leaving the field to the Anglican League.

BUF motorised column advance on Sir Gilbert

The Anglicans had also scored a victory on table 3, where the troublesome Sir Gilbert, claiming the area for the Hill Protectorate of the Golden Valley, saw off a determined diversionary assault from the BUF with the aid of an Anglican platoon under Captain Carroll.

Their target...

BUF darling Captain Arrowsmith was unable to put into effect the lessons he had learned from his visit to Italy and, with his cohort Captain Arnett, floundered against the Anglican defences despite some glorious cavalry charges and some thrilling tank-on-tank action.

Red hot tank-on-tank action!

As ever a great day's gaming was had, with all players being good sports who put up with our machinations with good humour. Special mention must go to Roo (he of the South Africans), who knocked up a cracking railway embankment (inspired by Eric the Shed's tutorial) in a matter of days!

So how does this leave our little campaign?


The Royalists can be considered the joint winner of this round. They have successfully extricated their troops from Foy and yet still have the Anglican Bishop of Hereford in their possession (although this may well depend on if the Catholics get hold of him!) However they have had to abandon a lot of hardware and their boss, the Governor of Hereford, will be furious at his underlings' failure to push aside the red rabble and allow the Baron of Foy's men to escape the Anglican's net.


The Anglican League have also come out on top. While their spiritual leader remains behind bars, they have scored a sound military victory against the BUF by resisting their incursion into Anglican territory. They have also allowed the costly siege of Foy to wind down with very little bloodshed and honoured their side of the bargain despite the Royalists' failure to come up with the goods. Furthermore they now occupy the Baron of Foy's private fiefdom, including a lot of military hardware. On the downside their alliance with the treacherous Socialists is under severe strain, possibly forcing a heavier reliance on the Welsh Nationalists.


The BUF scored a success by escaping the Foy salient, but have had to abandon substantial amounts of matériel. An enraged Baron Foy, not only losing face for this humiliating withdraw, must suffer the further indignity of failing to settle the score with Sir Gilbert Hill. Furthermore he has been forced to leave behind several crates of valuables, still waiting to be unpacked at Foy Manor. On the plus side the BUF's alliance with the Royalists has been strengthened following their collusion and joint escape.


The Socialists can draw satisfaction that they have foiled the plans of the elitist bourgeois parasites, but will rue the fact that they failed to arrest either the Bishop or the Governor when hauled before the People's Committee to explain themselves. They have also soured the already fragile relationship with the Anglican League and must now carry on the fight without their aid.


Once again we used 'Went The Day Well?', with some modifications written by Mort, which definitely improved the rules. Changes to crossing hedges, shooting vehicles and use of initiative cards certainly streamlined the game and reduced tabletop clutter. Oh, and of course, there was also Giles' rules for the sheep!


Much then to think about before the next Big Game...

You can read about the other players' experiences via the following links (I'll update this as the reports come in, so stay tuned!):-

The VBCF thread
Giles' blog, introduction
Giles' blog part 1
Giles' blog part 2
Giles' blog part 3
Giles' blog part 4
Giles' blog, summary
Rich's report on the Herdstone forum
Matt's blog part 1
Matt's blog part 2
Matt's blog part 3
Sir Gilbert's view of proceedings

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